Nicola Marshall is a speaker, trainer, author, and the director of BraveHeart Education. She recently visited UCB to share the story of her decision to adopt three children, how that led her to found her company, and how the experience of being an adoptive parent has shaped her faith.
My husband and I felt that adoption was the right course for us. We felt that there were so many children out there who needed a home, and I wasn’t set on giving birth as such. We weren’t really fussed about having babies, and we knew from the statistics that lots of children get stuck in the care system because people won’t take them. So we just started to open that door and see what happened.
We wanted to have siblings, because we always knew that we wanted to have more than one child. We didn’t really want to go through the process twice, which a lot of people do, and we were actually approved for two children up to the age of five. But we already knew the three children we now have, because they were fostered by a family in our church. So we’d met the children, we knew a little bit about their history and knew a little bit about them.
Most people want younger babies, but there are lots of advantages to having older children. We knew more about them and we knew more about their issues. When you go through the approval process, you’re told the kind of environments they might have come from. Most times, the children in care have come from very difficult backgrounds; they’re often taken out because of neglect and abuse. We were given all the information about them that Social Services knew, but it’s really hard to understand what the impact of that is going to be.
It’s been up and down in terms of challenges. I think the biggest thing, when they first came, was just getting used to the being a parent. And when you’ve got older children, you haven’t got the time to grow into it. Also, we talk sometimes in adoption circles about that feeling of dread that even when things are going well, you’re waiting for something to go wrong, waiting for some disaster to happen. It’s a rollercoaster, really. But I can honestly say that it was the right thing for us. We would do it again.
I originally started BraveHeart because there was a lot of training out there on understanding the children’s needs and everything they’ve been through, but there wasn’t a lot for parents or for teachers. I’ve also been running a support group for Christians in adoption, which came out of my need to be with other Christians. I’m starting to think about how we can do more of that around the country and how we can bring people together to support each other.
My church has really opened the doors to the fostering and adoption ministry, so now we have about eight foster carers and adopters, which together equates to about 30 children being cared for. That’s what the church should be about, I think - bringing everybody in and making such a huge difference.
The reality of being a Christian has become much more real in the last ten years, through adoption. I think just understanding what it actually means in terms of the Christian sense of us being adopted by God, and seeing the transformation for the children, has been the biggest thing. Even when things are difficult, there’s a hope and a faith and a trust that everything will work out.